November 26, 2022

Lefteriverse

Professional Real Estate Experts

How to Sell a House By Owner in Pennsylvania

When the time comes to move, some tenacious homeowners in Pennsylvania are eager to take over the reins of their home sale and figure out how to sell a house by owner.

A house is typically a person’s largest financial asset, and the decision to sell solo is often understandably driven by a desire to save on commission fees and pocket more equity from a hard-earned investment.

In recent years, the hot Pennsylvania real estate market and a steep rise in equity added extra incentive to maximize profits.

Impulsive home purchases also weren’t unheard of during the pandemic, so maybe you haven’t owned your Pennsylvania home very long and are concerned about covering the cost of selling your house. As the market shifts, you may have new concerns about how much you can get for your home and the amount of your net proceeds.

With millions of homes sold each year, a modest portion of sellers — about 7% in the last few years  — choose to list “For Sale By Owner” or FSBO (pronounced fizz-bow).

While the method can work for Pennsylvanians, it does come with some risks. Selling a house is a pretty rare event for most people, so you don’t know what you don’t know.

In this guide to selling FSBO in Pennsylvania, we’ll cover what can be the most difficult aspects of selling by owner in the Keystone State, including the steps that might be harder than you think. We’ll also provide a comprehensive overview of the full process to prep, market, and close on your home without the assistance of a real estate agent.

Note: Once you’ve seen what’s required, you can roll up your sleeves and get started with your FSBO sale. Or — in the event you’d prefer to work with a real estate agent — HomeLight would be happy to introduce you to highly-rated professionals in your Pennsylvania market who can help you command top dollar and provide a low-stress selling experience. 

How Much Is Your Pennsylvania Home Worth Now?

Get a near-instant real estate house price estimate from HomeLight for free. Our tool analyzes the records of recently sold homes near you, your home’s last sale price, and other market trends to provide a preliminary range of value in under two minutes.

How does selling by owner (FSBO) work in Pennsylvania?

Disclaimer: While we’ve done our best to research laws, guidelines, or policies for FSBO sales in Pennsylvania, HomeLight always recommends that you look into the local regulations for your area and when in doubt, consult with a legal advisor.

FSBO is a method of selling your home without the involvement of a listing agent. In a FSBO scenario, the seller assumes the responsibilities that would normally fall to their agent such as pricing the home, arranging showings, and negotiating the deal.

In an agent-assisted sale, the seller typically pays a commission amounting to around 6% of the sale price, which is then most often split 50/50 with the buyer’s agent. That 6% is deducted from the seller’s proceeds at closing. By selling FSBO, a seller can eliminate the cost of the listing agent commission (so around 3%), though they may still need to offer a buyer’s agent commission.

Buyer’s agents will expect compensation for the work they do to bring a buyer to a sale, such as arranging showings and helping to tee up and qualify the buyer. Plus, when a seller isn’t working with an agent, the buyer’s agent may end up carrying more of the weight to get the deal to the finish line.

Next: Consult our guide on who pays closing costs when selling a house by owner for more details.

Finally, a FSBO sale does not mean that a seller won’t need any professional assistance. In Pennsylvania, sellers are not required to hire a real estate attorney, but FSBO sales typically warrant legal and professional oversight of some kind to avoid an abundance of legal risk.

Most people who sell by owner will need to hire an attorney to review and prepare key documents and make sure paperwork is filled out properly, such as the seller’s disclosures. In Pennsylvania, sellers must complete a standard seller’s disclosure form, as well as specific forms related to lead-based paint and oil.

Let’s take a closer look at what disclosures are required when selling a house in Pennsylvania.

What needs to be disclosed when selling a house in Pennsylvania?

Whether you hire a listing agent or not, Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law requires sellers to disclose known defects and problems with a property to prospective buyers.

In Pennsylvania’s Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement (Form SPD), the following disclosures and information must be addressed:

  • If the home is part of a homeowners association (HOA).
  • Dates when the roof was installed, replaced, or repaired.
  • Current or past problems with the roof, gutters, flashing, or downspouts.
  • Issues related to a sump pit or pump.
  • Water infiltration, leakage, accumulation, or dampness (house, basement, crawl space, or other structures).
  • Termites/wood-destroying insects, dry rot, or pests affecting the property.
  • Movement, shifting, deterioration, or other structural problems (walls, foundations, driveways, walkways, etc.).
  • Use of stucco and exterior synthetic finishing systems.
  • Any fire, storm, water, or ice damage to the property.
  • Defects (including stains) in flooring or floor coverings.
  • Additions, structural changes, or other alterations made during ownership.
  • The home’s source of drinking water (public, well, holding tank, spring, etc.).
  • Source information and any issues regarding the property’s sewage system.
  • Materials used and any issues related to the home’s plumbing system.
  • Information about, and known problems with, water heaters, HVAC, and electrical systems.
  • What equipment and appliances will/may be sold with the property and known issues.
  • Questions related to the fill or expansive soil on the property.
  • Any known issues related to preferential assessment, development or property rights.
  • Past or present drainage or flooding problems affecting the property.
  • If the property is located in a wetlands area or a designated Special Flood Hazard Area.
  • Any encroachments, boundary line disputes, or easement issues.
  • Known hazardous substances or environmental issues (mold, radon, lead paint, underground tanks).
  • Any other issues affecting the property such as deed or title restrictions, zoning or law violations, or additional material defects.

An initial disclosure should be made by the seller prior to the signing of a purchase agreement. However, according to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, the seller’s duty to disclose material defects “continues until the date of settlement, even if the property is under contract.”

If a home seller learns of a material defect during the transaction, or needs additional space to explain their answers on the main seller disclosure statement, they can use the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement Addendum.

Why sell a house by owner in Pennsylvania?

The top three reasons people cite for selling FSBO include: “did not want to pay a commission or fee” (36%); sold to a relative, friend, or neighbor (30%); or that the buyers contacted the seller directly (8%), according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

To get a firsthand perspective on selling homes in Pennsylvania, we spoke with Deana Corrigan, in Bucks County, who is an expert in single-family home transactions. In fact, she’s worked with 75% more single-family homes than the average Doylestown, PA agent.

We also spoke with Elizabeth Forrester, a top real estate agent and a part of Reed Pirain‘s team in Pittsburgh, PA who is a pro at selling properties quickly. With an average of 59 days on market, she sells properties 51% faster than the average agent.

Forrester says Pennsylvania FSBO sellers she encounters typically choose that route “because they want to save money and they think that by not paying commission they’re going to come out ahead.”

“Or they’ve had a bad experience with an agent in the past and they think they can tackle it on their own.”

However, 2021 data from NAR shows that “FSBO homes sold at a median of $260,000 last year, significantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $318,000.” An independent study from 2016 to 2017 bears this out: FSBO homes sold for an average of 5.5% less than agent-marketed sales.

As you can see, FSBO is a mixed bag. So, before we share our selling tips, let’s lay out some pros and cons to help you decide if this is the route for you.

Pros of selling a house by owner

  • Ability to save on listing agent commission fees, usually around 3% of the sale price.
  • You’re completely in charge and can manage the sale as you please.
  • No “go-between” in your communications with buyers.
  • It can lead to a faster, simpler process if you’re selling to a family member or friend.

Cons of selling a house by owner

  • FSBO listings tend to sell for less, statistically speaking.
  • Unless the seller already has a buyer lined up, FSBO listings can take longer to sell. For example, according to Forrester, FSBO homes in Pennsylvania can spend an extra 30-90 days on the market if they aren’t priced correctly.
  • Managing all communications and negotiations yourself is time-consuming. Not having a communication buffer can be a downside if the buyer pushes back or says negative things about your property.
  • You’ll be negotiating without help from an expert, which could mean leaving money on the table.
  • Setting the listing price is challenging — you may be tempted to go too high. You could also risk under-selling with a low price.
  • Marketing your home is time-consuming.
  • You’ll still have selling costs, which may include transfer taxes and settlement fees. Not having agent representation could also lead to paying more in seller concessions.

In spite of the cons, we’ll help you navigate the challenges of FSBO if you’re committed to selling your Pennsylvania house without agent assistance. For some, selling a home FSBO is a challenge worth accepting, and success can be measured in more ways than one.

Steps to sell a house by owner

Next, let’s review the FSBO process step by step.

1. Prepare your house for sale

Whether you’re selling with an agent or FSBO, at a minimum you’ll want to get your Pennsylvania home into respectable shape before any showings to increase your chances of receiving a fair price. Here are a few standard tasks to add to the list.

Indoors

These efforts will go a long way toward impressing buyers looking for a home in Pennsylvania:

With so many aging homes in Pennsylvania, you’ll also want to make sure that there are no significant safety issues related to common issues such as lead paint or old wiring. As we stated earlier, there are seller disclosures you’ll need to complete as part of the home sale process — one of which relates to lead paint. Having this information up front, and fixing what you can, will help you maximize profits and avoid potential headaches during the closing process.

According to Forrester, problems with older homes most often come into play when someone attempts to flip a property but fails to put money into updating the piping or making sure the electrical works. “You need to be aware of the things that may not give you an 85-95% return, but that will make your house more sellable and eliminate issues in the escrow process.”

In terms of sprucing up the home’s interior, Forrester recommends prioritizing depersonalization. “You want to make sure that it doesn’t feel like it’s only your home,” she says. “So if you have 18 wedding photos up, maybe parse that down to three or four and then put some more generic photos on the walls.”

Outdoors

Data from HomeLight’s 2022 Top Agents Insight Report shows that on average, “Buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal versus a home with a neglected exterior.”

Some important curb appeal upgrades can include:

  • Mow the lawn and pull weeds.
  • Apply fresh mulch liberally.
  • Upgrade your landscaping. Consider a new walkway, flowerbed, or shrubs.
  • Add a fresh coat of exterior paint.
  • Install a new garage door if yours is looking old or not working properly.
  • Caulk (or recaulk) the exterior of the house to help prevent water damage — a common issue in Pennsylvania due to the high humidity levels.

“The outside of your home is the first impression people are going to get,” Forrester says. “Light landscaping, window boxes, or shutters are all pretty easy things to purchase and install — and they can really draw buyers in.”

When it comes to simple interior and exterior home improvements, Corrigan has seen the benefits herself — and had a house sell over asking price because of the work she and her sellers put into the process. It was simple, inexpensive things like painting and cleaning carpets, but it went a long way toward making the house attractive to buyers. “A few basics can make a big difference in making a house look clean. You want your house to look well cared for — not a mess.”

2. Do the homework necessary to set a competitive price

You’ve arrived at a critical moment in your FSBO process: setting a listing price. You don’t want to leave money on the table, yet you want to encourage activity on your listing.

Before listing a home, an agent usually conducts a comparative market analysis (CMA). This is a highly-detailed study of “comps” — similar homes nearby that have sold recently, are pending, on the market, or were previously listed but taken off the market. Some may have even been pulled off the market without a sale.

Without an agent, you’ll miss out on the complexity of a full CMA and the know-how to interpret it.

However, with a little time and money, you can set a competitive price yourself.

Impartiality is key to this process, but it’s easier said than done for many sellers. “I own a home myself and I know that I probably put more value into it just because of the memories we’ve made here,” Forrester says. “Projects we’ve deferred don’t bother us, but it’s something that a buyer is going to walk in and immediately notice.”

Conduct your own “CMA Lite”

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and research.

Start with an online home value estimate

As a starting point, look at several online estimators for your home’s value. HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator aggregates publicly available data such as tax records and assessments, your home’s last sale price, and recent sales records for other properties in the same neighborhood.

We also add a new layer of information to our estimates using a short questionnaire. Tell us a few details about your Pennsylvania home, such as:

  • How much work does it need?
  • What type of home is it (single-family, condo, townhouse, or other)?
  • Roughly when was your house built?
  • Are you planning to sell soon?

Using these insights, we’ll provide you with a preliminary estimate of your home’s value in under two minutes.

Whether you use Zillow, Chase, Realtor, or Redfin to get a home value estimate, think of any online home price tool as a first step (not your only source of truth) — and recognize that the data used may be limited.

Narrowly filter your search for comps

When you’re ready to find comps, you can choose from sites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, or Realtor.

You’ll want to filter your searches to the area very near your house (within blocks if possible) and with similar characteristics. If you’re not finding any comps, expand your search map.

You’ll also want to filter results by details like:

  • Listing status (look at recently sold, pending, and active)
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Square footage
  • Home type (single-family, condo, etc.)

Beyond the above criteria, the more houses you find with floor plans and an age similar to yours, the better.

Use a site like Zillow to collect your data

As an example, let’s take a look at how to filter your search for comps on Zillow.

  • Navigate to Zillow.
  • Type in your address. If a pop-up with your home’s specs appears, close it.
  • Filter by “sold.” Yellow dots should appear on the map surrounding your house.

A screenshot of Zillow's website, showing how to use the filters options.

  • Now, filter by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and check the box “Use exact match.”

A screenshot from Zillow's website, showing how to filter by bedrooms and bathrooms.

  • Next, filter by home type.

A screenshot from Zillow's website, showing how to filter by home type.

  • Next, select the “More” box. Here you can specify square footage, lot size, year built, and — crucially — the “sold in last” (time period) category.

A screenshot from Zillow's website, showing the various other filters available to use.

  • Scroll down and select to view houses that sold in the last 30 days.
  • If you find there are not many results in your area, try expanding to 90 days. However, the further back you go, the less relevant the comps.
  • If necessary, click the plus or minus buttons to widen the search area.
  • Once you’ve collected data for sold houses, revise or restart the search to view active and pending listings, as well.
Invest in an appraisal

If you want to further reduce guesswork, top agents recommend paying an appraiser to provide a professional opinion of value for your home. An appraiser will combine recent property data, research of the surrounding market, and information collected from a walkthrough of your home to determine an appraised value. For a single-family home, an appraisal will likely cost $500 to $600 — well worth it to avoid possibly over- or underpricing your house by thousands.

Although Corrigan agrees that an appraisal can help sellers get their homes priced in the right range, she warns sellers against using an appraisal that they may have recently had done for a refinance. “Those numbers won’t necessarily translate into an appraisal number for a home sale,” she says. “When you’re refinancing [your home], it’s a different kind of appraisal. They’re trying to loan you more money if they can.”

Make sense of the research

Compare your home’s features against the nearby comps you collected. Hopefully, the houses you studied give an indication of an appropriate price range for your home. From there, you can make dollar adjustments based on characteristics that add value (patios, curb appeal, an extra bedroom) versus detracting from it (a busy street, deferred maintenance, less square footage).

Consider the differences and similarities of comps with the appraised value of your home to choose a price that will encourage activity (too high and it may seem out of reach to many buyers) but will also maximize your profit.

3. Photograph your home

Listing photos are powerful, either pulling in buyers for showings or keeping them away.

To give your listing an edge, consider hiring an experienced real estate photographer. While they may charge as much as $140 to $180 an hour, Forrester believes it’s money well spent.

“[Hiring a photographer] is incredibly important, as is the order of the photos posted online,” she says. “People will typically scroll through three to four photos. If you don’t capture their attention, they’re just going to click on the next listing.”

According to Forrester, the first image must be an exterior shot of the house, per Pennsylvania law. But those next few pictures should be whatever rooms in the house are the most impressive. “If you have a beautiful foyer, or your kitchen is one of those HGTV-style kitchens, those should be your first pictures.”

If you do go the DIY route, make sure to:

  • Use a good camera with a wide-angle lens.
  • Pay attention to lighting.
  • Include a photo of every room.
  • Take multiple pictures of living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.
  • Try shooting different angles.

Review our guide on how to take quality real estate photos for further guidance.

4. Create a detailed, compelling listing

Along with stellar photos, you’ll want to craft an informative and compelling listing. Leverage both the listing description (a paragraph or two highlighting key features) and the property details to show potential buyers all about your home and what makes it desirable.

Tell a story with your description

Draw in potential buyers with a powerful listing description that tells a story about your Pennsylvania house, including details like:

  • Your home’s most unique and desirable features, like a breakfast nook, sunroom, or first-floor bedroom
  • Recent upgrades like a kitchen or bathroom remodel or a new roof or HVAC system
  • High-end appliances, materials, or finishes
  • Outdoor features like a pool or patio
  • Neighborhood features and amenities
  • Nearby parks, walking trails, restaurants, and attractions
  • If it’s part of an association that offers maintenance-free living

Corrigan says that while you want to highlight the home features that are most important to people, you don’t want to oversell the home, either. “Don’t make it sound like an absolutely beautiful home when it needs quite a bit of work,” she says. “You don’t want them to walk in and be disappointed.”

Forrester also warns sellers that they need to avoid what’s called “steering,” when writing a real estate listing. Even if it’s done unintentionally, the practice of calling out a neighborhood as “family friendly” or mentioning its proximity to a particular nearby church, can make it seem as if you’re targeting a specific type of buyer for your property — which is illegal. “You really need to take a step back and make sure your listing isn’t trying to draw in only one set of people,” she says.

“It’s not one of those roadblocks many people think of, but it is something you can get into trouble for.”

Lastly, and this is crucial: specify in your description whether a buyer’s agent will receive a commission from the proceeds. Most agents don’t want to show their clients properties from which they’d receive no commission. You can decide not to offer a buyer’s agent commission, but recognize that doing so could limit your buyer pool as buyer’s agents typically expect to be compensated for their efforts.

Don’t skimp on the property details

Aside from writing the description, you may be prompted to enter information like:

  • Age of the home
  • Square footage
  • Architectural style (i.e. split-level, rancher, craftsman)
  • Appliances included
  • Exterior building materials
  • Flooring types
  • HOA fees
  • School zone information
  • Lot size

Many real estate agents and potential buyers really do read this “fine print” on your listing — so include accurate details, and plenty of them.

5. List your home online

It’s finally time to post your Pennsylvania home online. While you can create FSBO listings for free on popular search sites, you’d have to painstakingly post site by site, and your listing wouldn’t reach the majority of buyers and agents.

To give your home the most exposure, pay to have your home put on your local MLS (multiple listing service) — a platform agents use to share properties with one another as well as major real estate sites. Posting there will feed your listing to buyers’ agent databases and to common sites buyers use.

Only licensed real estate agents and brokers who are MLS members can post to the MLS. However, you have two options to gain access: paying an agent to post for you or using a FSBO platform online.

Pay an agent to list your home on the MLS

A local agent may be willing to list your house on the MLS for a flat fee, without any other involvement in your real estate transaction. If you decide to go this route, make sure you ask whether the fee includes updating your listing if necessary.

Use a FSBO platform with an MLS option

There are a variety of paid websites that you can use to list your Pennsylvania house online as “for sale by owner.” These sites offer packages ranging from about $100 to $400 for just a listing, or a larger flat fee of $3,000 to $5,000 that includes any number of additional professional marketing services.

Some of these companies display their rates on their websites but others won’t quote a fee until you input your address or select an area of the country. A few examples include:

It’s important to note that most of these companies serve FSBO sellers nationwide, which can cause challenges if the assisting representatives don’t understand the local market trends in your Pennsylvania neighborhood.

Whatever you choose, read the fine print carefully: some sites may have hidden fees or even take a percentage off your sale — a detour you’d rather avoid on the FSBO route.

Not willing to pay for the MLS?

If you’re determined to save money by foregoing the MLS, creating a free FSBO listing on Zillow might be your top option. You can post videos and unlimited photos, and get fairly wide exposure via Zillow and the Zillow-owned Trulia.

6. Market your home

Now it’s time to spread the word about your Pennsylvania home.

Experienced agents like Forrester and Corrigan know that posting a home on the MLS is just the beginning of the marketing phase. A successful home sale requires a deliberate and targeted marketing plan to reach the right buyers and attract the best offers.

“From the pool of people who have seen your listing, you’ll have a smaller number of people who want to walk through the front door and an even smaller pool of people who want to make an offer on the house,” Forrester says.

“It’s very important to make sure that you’re placing your house where the most viable buyers are going to see it.”

Here are some of the steps you can take to market your home:

Place a nice FSBO sign by the road

Consider getting a custom yard sign rather than purchasing a generic one you write on with Sharpie. You can order a custom sign on a site like Vistaprint with your contact information, plus a stand, for as little as $25 plus shipping. Note that some MLS providers may have rules about whether you can post a FSBO yard sign while your home is on the MLS.

Share on social media

Share your home across social media — and ask your friends to share, too. “Social media is a great place to increase your exposure,” Forrester says. “It’s free, which makes it a great tool for for-sale-by-owner homes.”

“Here in Pittsburgh, we’ve seen a ton of relocation clients moving into the area. So having that nationwide exposure is very important.”

Hold an open house

Try these strategies for a successful open house event:

  • Share details on Facebook and Nextdoor.
  • Update your MLS listing with the open house details (if you’re able to as part of paying the flat fee), or update your DIY FSBO listing.
  • Place open house signs at nearby intersections.
  • Tidy up the house before potential buyers come through.
  • Pass out info sheets with the address, bullet points about the house, your contact info, and perhaps one photo.
  • If you can, collect visitors’ info — then follow up later to ask if they have any questions.

Find more expert tips for how to hold an open house at this link.

7. Manage showings

If your marketing is successful, your next step will be to show the home to prospective buyers. Welcome to the busiest phase of the home sale process. According to Corrigan, a major reason some FSBO sellers switch to an agent is that they underestimated the time, energy, and expertise needed to manage this crucial step.

“If their home is in great condition and priced well, they’re going to get a lot of showings…it’s a lot to keep track of,” she says.

A big contributor to this is the number of “looky-loos” that express interest in seeing properties — many of whom aren’t qualified to purchase the home. Corrigan says this is a big advantage of working with a real estate agent because they’ll filter these potential buyers out before they show up at your front door.

“In a normal situation, it’s a lot of work to get a home ready for a showing, and now you’ve got people coming through who can’t even afford the home,” she says. “It makes it much more difficult.”

To manage the logistics of showings:

  • Respond to inquiries ASAP.
  • Set end times if you need to fit many showings in one day. This will also create a sense of demand and urgency for buyers to place offers.
  • Remove or secure valuables.
  • Make sure the home is clean and tidy for showings.
  • Follow up with buyers’ agents after showings to get their feedback.
  • Speak with your association about the logistics of parking if you live in an HOA neighborhood.

Should you be present for showings?

If you’d rather not be present for every showing, consider using a lockbox with a code to let buyers’ agents enter the house. This is standard industry practice among agents. To ensure you’re working with someone legitimate, use Google or sites like arello.com to check their real estate license number.

With unrepresented buyers, plan to be on the property for the showing. During a showing, we recommend you:

  • Point out a few highlights of the house.
  • Let buyers look without hovering.
  • Be prepared to answer questions.
  • Avoid the temptation to tell all — let the house and listing do the talking.

8. Evaluate offers and negotiate a deal

You’ve got your first offer — congratulations! Before signing anything, Corrigan recommends that sellers consult an attorney.

“An attorney can help sellers put the contract together and educate you on how to handle everything correctly.”

Here are key things to think about when considering an offer on your Pennsylvania home:

  • Vet potential buyers by requiring a mortgage pre-approval letter or proof of funds.
  • Require everything in writing.
  • Remember you can counter-offer and negotiate.
  • Have the offer reviewed by an experienced real estate attorney. (See the next step!)

9. Close the sale — with professional help

Time to button up that deal.

Although Corrigan says that real estate attorneys aren’t used much in Pennsylvania, they are imperative for FSBO sellers to minimize risk and settle the legal documents.

“Your home is your biggest asset, so why would you take a chance in trying to go it alone? You don’t know what you don’t know.”

According to Corrigan, a real estate attorney can be very helpful through the negotiation process, as well as in navigating things like appraisal contingencies. “Definitely have an attorney review all of your offers, but make sure it’s a real estate attorney. Not all attorneys are the same — they need to understand contracts and how to negotiate.”

Real estate attorney fees can vary depending on location and how much help you want or need. In Pennsylvania, they generally range from $150-$300 per hour — well worth it for professional guidance in closing one of life’s largest legal transactions.

FSBO mistakes to avoid in Pennsylvania

On your FSBO journey, watch out for these major pitfalls:

  • Missing out on the MLS.
  • Forgetting or refusing to pay the buyer’s agent commission.
  • Over- or under-pricing.
  • Letting your house sit on the market too long.

According to Corrigan, one of the most common errors FSBO sellers make in Pennsylvania is just letting anybody through their front door — which she says is a very scary proposition in today’s world. “Someone comes knocking at your door saying they’re interested in buying your home, but you have no idea who they are or what their motives are,” she says. “They haven’t been pre-qualified and you don’t know if they’re legit buyers.”

Not having a real estate agent vet buyers can also cause problems during the closing process. “We see offers falling through because sellers don’t understand that the buyer has to sell a home, too,” Corrigan says. “And if their home doesn’t sell, they can’t close.”

This is primarily a problem when buyers start looking at properties before they’re actually ready to sell. “They might be interested in buying your house, but their house is still 30 days away from even being ready to hit the market.”

Statistically, your house is going to sell for more money if you sell through an agent rather than selling on your own. One of the biggest problems you run into as a for sale by owner is being very emotionally involved, which is not great for the negotiations of the sale of the home.

  • Elizabeth Forrester

    Elizabeth Forrester
    Real Estate Agent


    Close

    Elizabeth Forrester
    Elizabeth Forrester
    Real Estate Agent at BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY THE PREFERRED REALTY

    • Years of Experience
      2
    • Transactions
      3
    • Average Price Point
      $168k
    • Single Family Homes
      3

Alternatives to selling by owner in Pennsylvania

If you decide you don’t want the hassle or pressure of FSBO, you’ve got other solid options.

Enlist the help of a top-rated real estate agent

Ultimately, the services and price gains you can get with an experienced real estate agent may put more money in your pocket than FSBO. A proven agent is also better equipped to help you achieve your selling and moving timelines.

Corrigan says she’s had numerous people start out as FSBO, especially in the last few years when the market was so hot that homes seemed to sell themselves. “I get called on by sellers who want my opinion before trying FSBO. Most of the time they find themselves very overwhelmed in the first week.”

“I had one person call and say, ‘oh my gosh, I had no idea [how much work this would be]. My phone’s ringing off the hook asking us all these questions. I’m trying to work, I’ve got kids at home…what did I get myself into?’”

Forrester has had similar experiences as a real estate agent in Pennsylvania. “About 90 percent of for sale by owners end up listing their house with an agent,” she says. “We find they’re often not focusing on the right marketing features and they have the price completely wrong. Once we make a few quick adjustments, they’re amazed by the amount of exposure and offers they get.”

“Statistically, your house is going to sell for more money if you sell through an agent rather than selling on your own,” Forester says. “One of the biggest problems you run into as a for sale by owner is being very emotionally involved, which is not great for the negotiations of the sale of the home.”

Interested in such expertise? HomeLight’s Agent Match platform can connect you to top-performing agents in your Pennsylvania market. Our free tool analyzes over 27 million transactions and thousands of reviews to determine which agent is best for you based on your needs. It takes only two minutes to receive your matches.

Request a cash offer to buy your Pennsylvania home

If you’d like to skip the sale prep altogether — plus avoid paying agent commissions — you can opt to sell your home “as-is” to an all-cash buyer instead.

For a low-stress experience, consider requesting a cash offer from HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. Tell us a few details about your home, and in as few as 48 hours, we’ll send a no-obligation all-cash offer your way. If you decide to accept the offer, Simple Sale sellers have the ability to close in as little as 10 days.

Without leaving the Simple Sale platform, you’ll also be able to compare your cash offer to an estimation of what your home would sell for on the open market so you can make an informed decision.

Ready to sell your Pennsylvania home?

Unless you already have a buyer lined up, selling a house by owner in Pennsylvania requires a significant investment of time and effort. You’ll need to pull your own comps, capture excellent pictures, create a listing, market the house online, field inquiries, host showings, negotiate, and close the deal. And that’s after preparing the house itself.

According to the NAR, the process isn’t easy — with sellers ranking the most difficult FSBO tasks as preparing and fixing up the home for sale, getting the right price, and understanding the paperwork.

You also have to consider that FSBO listings tend to sell for less than agent-assisted sales. An experienced agent who knows the area can make recommendations for targeted upgrades to help you maximize your sale price and get a premium offer. This can help to offset or, in some cases, more than make up for the cost of commission — while saving you time and headaches.

If you chose to go FSBO, you should have a good idea now of what to expect from the process.  Otherwise, our internal transaction data at HomeLight shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more than average, and we’d be happy to introduce you to some of the best agents in your Pennsylvania market.

Header Image Source: (Clara Lilley / Unsplash)